By itself, the Obama administration's decision to delay by one year the so-called employer mandate will only affect about 4% of businesses in the United States.
But with the Affordable Care Act's glitches piling up, it was logical and easy for Republicans to turn the news into something symbolic of the overall "train wreck" that has come with the law's implementation — ripe with implications for the near-term future and the long-term outlook that includes the 2014 midterm election.
The latest setback means that there will be no penalties imposed on companies with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees that fail to provide certain minimum-criteria health insurance to their workers.
"The president's health care law is already raising costs and costing jobs," House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement late Tuesday.
"This announcement means even the Obama administration knows the 'train wreck' will only get worse. I hope the administration recognizes the need to release American families from the mandates of this law as well. This is a clear acknowledgment that the law is unworkable, and it underscores the need to repeal the law and replace it with effective, patient-centered reforms."
Some conservatives are already calling for the House GOP's focus to shift when it returns from the July 4 recess next Monday. The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol advanced that idea in a column on Friday, arguing that the news gives Republicans an opportunity to attack on Obamacare while giving them an excuse to put off another issue — immigration.
A senior House GOP aide said that's a possibility. And reaction statements from some of the House and Senate's top Republican leaders signal that new efforts to repeal the health care law could ensue.
" Rather than continuing to delay the predictable pain until another election day has passed, we should scrap this entire law and instead implement patient-centered reforms before any more damage is done to our economy or the health care families depend on. The best delay for ObamaCare is a permanent one," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Politically, the Obama administration seems to be banking on the notion that the bad PR backlash that will come with this decision won't be nearly as bad as the potential disastrous implications of the employer mandate's implementation next year.
Still, it won't help the overall perception of confusion and skepticism toward the law. Public polls still show that the public still doesn't know much about the law and how it will affect them, which contributes to overall disapproval of the law. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that more Americans than ever viewed Obamacare negatively.
Those numbers and Tuesday's delay have already given fresh ammunition to Republicans.
"Pushing the implementation of the employer mandate until after the 2014 election confirms the law was a historic mistake," said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Health Committee, in a statement.
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